Final Sprint for Inconsistent Tight Ends

D.J. Williams, Brandon Bostick and Andrew Quarless have flashed but not with enough consistency. Can Quarless return to form and stay healthy? Can Williams take it to the playing field? Can Bostick do the right things and find some "nasty" in time?

Jermichael Finley is having an outstanding training camp and seems to be on the cusp of the breakout season the Green Bay Packers have been waiting for since his strong finish to 2009.

The rest of the tight end depth chart, however, is up for grabs with rosters needing to be cut to 53 players by Aug. 31.

The closest thing to a lock would be Ryan Taylor, the third-year player and core member of the special teams. Matthew Mulligan, because of his blocking and the Packers' increased emphasis on running the ball, would seem to be a good bet, as well.

Otherwise, the questions are many with two preseason games and three practices remaining.

Can Andrew Quarless stay healthy?

Quarless sustained a serious knee injury late in 2011 and missed all of 2012. He got off to a decent start in training camp before a quad injury just before the Family Night Scrimmage. He returned to practice this week but, not surprisingly, made little impact as he was eased back into action.

Before the injury, Quarless was the best blocker in the unit and had the speed to stretch the field. Now, can he get back to that level? Can he get healthy and stay healthy? "Every rep that we can get with Andrew is a bonus," tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said. "We need to get as much time with him as we possibly can. In answering your question, we've been very limited and we have very limited information on where he is right now. We know where he was a year-and-a-half ago, two years ago. We don't know where he is now. We need as much information as we can get."

Can D.J. Williams play as well in games as he does in practice?

Williams, a fifth-round pick in 2011, won the John Mackey Award as a senior at Arkansas and had seasons of 54 and 61 receptions. After catching two passes as a rookie, Williams had a strong training camp last year but didn't deliver in the regular season with just seven receptions.

"He's well-rounded, he can do a lot of different things, and I do use him to do a lot of different things," Fontenot said. "Everything that the tight end is asked to do, he can do. At some point, though, you want to see the kid really get it and move forward on Sunday. This past Saturday was not an indication of that, in my opinion. I think that we're still working on some things that we can get better at. We'll see. Time will tell."

One area where Williams has exceeded expectations is as a blocker. While he lacks the horsepower to win regularly at the line of scrimmage, he's proven quite capable as an on-the-move blocker in an H-back type of role.

"As a blocker, he actually did quite well this past Saturday against St. Louis," Fontenot said. "Unfortunately. he had some opportunities in the pass game that he didn't cash in on, so, you know, it's always a work in progress. But D.J. has improved overall. The big focus with D.J. is making the transition from practice to games because he's really good in practice. We need to get that in the game."

Can Brandon Bostick play the right way?

Bostick is a former Division II wide receiver who spent his rookie season on the practice squad. Because of his receiving ability and added strength, there was hope Bostick would challenge for a roster spot this season. After a slow start to camp, he's done just that with several productive practices. He made a brilliant catch against double coverage for a touchdown on Wednesday, tipping the overthrown pass to himself and catching it while lying on the ground. Now, he needs to do it consistently.

"He's another kid that it seemed like during the game against St. Louis, it seemed like he got a little bit of a spark and found out that being in the right place at the right time and running routes the right way will give you more opportunities," Fontenot said in a telling comment. "He certainly did that. He played hard. He still has a ways to go. It was good to see him go out there and have some production. Run game-wise, he has some things he needs to detail, and pass game, honestly (too). ...

"Where he decides to get a little bit nasty and get a little bit of an attitude, then he can be a good football player. This league will definitely challenge you and you need to have somewhat of an edge to you in order to succeed or survive. He's got the right work ethic. I think it's just a matter of my getting it out of him on the field."

With Fontenot speaking critically of three returning players, the focus turns to the final two preseason games, when roster spots will be won and lost.

"Yeah, I'd say that these next two games are going to be vital," Fontenot said. "As much playing time as we can get these guys, as much information as we can get on each and every one of them, that's what we need to do."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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